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A Brief History of PRIDE

Every year in June, the LGBTQ+ community comes together to celebrate Pride month, the community, and its achievements. The month-long celebration has its origins in the early commemorations of the Stonewall Riots which began on June 28, 1969, when the New York City Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood.

The raid was supposedly scheduled and conducted because the NYPD had information that the bar was serving liquor without a license, among other violations. At the time, New York’s gay community had grown incredibly weary of the police department targeting gay clubs. That tension led to the crowd throwing bottles at the police not long after they arrived for their raid and things only got worse from there. The protest spilled into the neighboring streets and riots ensued until the deployment of New York’s riot police early the next day. The initial uprising, which led to six days of violent protests, fueled the growth of the gay rights movement.

As gay rights grew in the civilian world, the military was slow to catch up to these societal changes. Before 1982, when the military officially enacted a policy banning gay individuals from the ranks, same-sex relations were criminalized and cause for discharge. Before that, in the early 1940s, it was unfortunately mis-classified as a mental illness.

In 1993, under President Bill Clinton’s administration, a policy that became to be known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” went into effect. This policy prohibited discrimination against those individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who were not open about their sexual preferences, while barring military service from those individuals from the LGBTQ+ community who were open about it. This policy was enforced until 2011 when it was repealed by Congress, allowing openly gay and bisexual individuals to serve.

The United States’ military started to see an increase in LGBTQ+ representation around 2015. A real barrier was broken when Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that the Military Equal Opportunity policy had been modified to include gay service members. This officially extended spousal and family benefits to same-sex partners in the military! The following year, the Senate confirmed Eric Fanning as secretary of the Army, making him the first openly gay secretary of a U.S. military branch. 

credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution Services
Credit: DVIDS

Gay rights have evolved dramatically over the last century and the last few years have brought a lot of change to the world, encouraging focus on diversity and civil rights issues. Given the military’s 247-year history, their policy to accept the LGBTQ+ community is still relatively new and like all shifts, takes time. Despite the shifts and policy changes, the mission for full equality in the military is still incomplete. While Gay and transgender military service members enjoy far more rights than they did even just 10 years ago, the fight to increase acceptance for this continuously marginalized group continues.


Building upon previous blog posts and collections of the subject, this year the librarians have chosen new additions to highlight for your attention.

To learn more about the Stonewall Riot, read David Carter’s Stonewall: the Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution.

Recently added titles include:

Eleveld, Kerry. Don't Tell Me to Wait: How the Fight for Gay Rights Changed America and Transformed Obama's Presidency. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2015.

Faderman, Lillian. The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Findlay, Jean. Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy, and Translator. First American ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.

Oclon, Kim. The War on All Fronts. Deerfield, IL: Trism Books, 2022.

Shinkle, Peter. Ike's Mystery Man: The Secret Lives of Robert Cutler. First ed. Hanover, New Hampshire: Steerforth Press, 2018.

Witt, Margaret, and Tim Connor. Tell: Love, Defiance, and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights. Lebanon, NH: ForeEdge, an imprint of University Press of New England, 2017.

And see last year’s Pride Month blog post.

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